Rocknroll Hanover is gone, but he will not be forgotten. Not now, or likely anytime in the future. The 2005 Horse of the Year winner and a 2012 inductee into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, Rocknroll Hanover found success not only on the racetrack, where he earned $2.75 million in his career, but also in the breeding shed. Last year, his offspring won $17 million, which was No. 1 among all harness racing sires.
On Thursday, the 11-year-old pacer was euthanized after suffering from a gastric impaction that caused his stomach to rupture. Rocknroll Hanover was standing at Perretti Farms of Pennsylvania.
"He's made a hell of a contribution to the breed,” said Bob Marks, the marketing manager for Perretti Farms. "I think it was remarkable what he did last year; that he was the leading money-winning stallion even though his oldest foals were only 5 years old.
"He'll be remembered as one of the great stallions; a stallion who was done too soon. Certainly he's left some sons who will carry on. He's going to have a legacy like Most Happy Fella did. Whether he'll have the milestone stallion sons that Most Happy Fella did, that remains to be seen. But I think he will. I expect that he will.”
Rocknroll Hanover is related to Most Happy Fella on his paternal side of the family. Bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, Rocknroll Hanover was a son of millionaire pacer Western Ideal out of Rich N Elegant, whose contributions as a broodmare landed her in both the U.S. and Canadian halls of fame.
As a sire, Rocknroll Hanover has six millionaires to his credit so far: Rock N Roll Heaven, Put On A Show, A Rocknroll Dance, Rocklamation, Ticket To Rock and Pet Rock. Rock N Soul could reach the million-dollar mark this season, as well.
Rock N Roll Heaven was the 2010 Horse of the Year and Put On A Show last season became the fastest female pacer in harness racing history with a 1:47.3 mile in the Lady Liberty at the Meadowlands.
"He stamps them pretty good,” Marks said. "You could usually go out into the fields and pick out the Rocknrolls. He's very much of his paternal line. He tends to throw out a horse that's his. Most of them are pretty easy to be around. A lot of them don't seem to have much of a bottom; they just keep going.
"I think that's pretty much going to be his legacy; that he throws a horse that keeps going. Are they all great? No, of course not. But a lot of them are.”
Rocknroll Hanover first established his greatness on the racetrack. Trained by Brett Pelling for owners Jeffrey Snyder, Lothlorien Equestrian Center and Perretti Racing, he won 12 of 18 races in 2005, including the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace and Breeders Crown, and earned $2.22 million.
A year earlier, the colt won the million-dollar Metro Pace in a world-record 1:49.4 mile. He is the only pacer in history to win the Metro, North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace and a Breeders Crown in his career.
"The Metro was definitely one of his big races because he was so young and green, just raw, at the time,” driver Brian Sears said last year when Rocknroll Hanover was voted to the Hall of Fame. "Coming back as a 3-year-old, winning all those classic races, that speaks for itself. He was gaited and handy like a little horse and could step it up when you needed the gas, but he wasn't a little horse. He was just very athletic. Nothing bothered him.”
Marks and Sears both likened Rocknroll Hanover to former football and baseball star Bo Jackson.
"I think he was a very unusual horse,” Marks said. "Brett will always say he was a big horse, which he was, but he had incredible speed. I think physically he was like Bo Jackson and (NBA star) LeBron James. LeBron James is big but moves like a point guard. I think Rocknroll was very much like that.
"He was a big fullback-type horse, but he moved like a scatback. It was a very unusual quality; he had instantaneous acceleration.”
At the time of his retirement, Rocknroll Hanover was the fastest 2-year-old pacer in history and had posted the third-richest season among pacers in history. Sears and the colt's connections were not alone in understanding his greatness.
"He kind of knew he was special,” Sears said. "I guess that's the ‘It' factor with a horse. He was just a total class animal.”
Marks agreed. "He had a very great presence. He had a way about him. When the Europeans would come over to tour the farm during Hambletonian week, he was the only pacer they were interested in seeing.
"He was very intelligent. He knew he was better. He was very much his own individual. You didn't see anything of his immediate ancestors in him. He became like a genetic perfection, or pretty close to it. He was just different from the normal horse. He was a wonderful horse to be around.”(Harness Racing Communications)